South Boston is known for its celebrations. We call them “Southie times”; they celebrate many, many notable happenings – achievements, community awards, successful fundraising, lives well spent, and so on. On June 9, about 80 young students in Grades K, 1st, and 2nd from the Condon School on D Street joined with their counterparts from the Ellison Parks and Pappas Rehab Schools at a celebration called the “COOL Ways to Play” Festival. This Festival was held in the Children’s Museum by South Boston’s Fort Point Channel on Congress Street. What better place for a young peoples’ Festival? And the weather was perfect.
VSA Massachusetts was the 2016 “COOL Ways to Play” Festival sponsor. VSA (does that stand for “Very Special Arts”?) is a Boston-based organization located near South Station; they are affiliated with the statewide Seven Hills Foundation. They promote the involvement of people with a varied spectrum of abilities in community cultural life. Specifically regarding young students, VSA’s “COOL Schools” program integrates the arts with existing school curriculum. Simply stated, this offers students another way to learn, and to learn well.
For the past seven years, VSA Massachusetts has partnered locally with the Condon School on D Street, just off West Broadway. The Condon kids take part in “COOL Schools” music and puppet programs, guided by their own teachers and teaching artists. Teaching through art engages the young students on many levels; this is especially effective in giving them a wider gateway to literacy. There are actually three benefits from “COOL Schools” – increased literacy and better reading itself, practice in the arts, and improved social skills.
So, at the end of each “COOL Schools” year, VSA has a Festival to celebrate the students’ achievements; this year of 2016 was no exception. As part of the 2016 “COOL Ways to Play” Festival, VSA put up an exhibition of works of art from Boston’s Henderson and Adams School. From that, the students then went on to create their own art. There were puppet shows and an area to create from cardboard. What could possibly be any better than cardboard to work with? It can be cut, shaped, painted, and recycled. It’s strong. And if a mistake is made, well, cardboard is also cheap. Just get another piece and start over.